Irish 2016 Paralympic team – the IWA-Sport involvement

26th August 2016

The Irish Paralympic team departs for the Paralympic Games in Rio, Brazil, from September 7th to 18th.

IWA-Sport would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the IWA members, athletes, coaches and support staff on qualification and wishes them every success at the Games.

IWA has a long and proud history of involvement in the Paralympics Games since its original inception in 1960. Indeed the founding members of the IWA had just returned from the Paralympic Games in Rome in September 1960, before the inaugural meeting of the founding members the following November.

Once again this year, the Irish Paralympic team comprises of a large number of IWA members, who will compete in a number of sports.

Sailing
John Toomey, Cork.

John has been active member of IWA for many years and has been involved both as an athlete and a volunteer during this time. John will have the remarkable distinction of competing in his 11th consecutive Paralympic Games in Rio. John won a gold medal in Seoul 1988 and a bronze medal in Stoke Mandeville in 1984 while throwing the discus. He has also competed at Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Paralympics in sailing. Added to this, John will have the proud honour of being the flag bearer for the Irish team at the opening ceremony on September 7th. John will compete in the 3 Person Keelboat (Sonar) event.

Table Tennis
Rena McCarron Rooney – Donegal.
Originally from Donegal, now living in Galway, Rena will compete at her second Paralympic Games in Rio.
Rena has represented IWA and Ireland in Table Tennis at European and World Championship level for many years and has consistently featured in the top 10 players in her class for the past 8 years. Rena is no stranger to the podium but of note was her silver medal win at the European Championships last year. Rena was a popular member of the IWA-Sport staff team for a number of years where she made a significant impact on the development of sporting opportunities in the western region. Rena is coached by her husband Ronan Rooney who is also a long time member of IWA.
Rena will compete in the class 2 table tennis singles event.

Handcycling
Declan Slevin – Westmeath
Declan is a very active member of IWA-Sport and in addition to his handcycling activities, Declan is a founding member, current Chairman and player in his local wheelchair basketball team, the Shannonside Stealers. Declan is also a current committee member on the IWA-Sport National Sports Executive Committee.  Four years ago, Declan attended his first para-cycling Invacare League and from there he progressed in the sport at a phenomenal level, the highlight of his career securing a bronze medal in the UCI Para-Cycling World Cup in South Africa this year, setting a new national record for the 16km Time Trial of 26 minutes 58 seconds. Declan will compete in the Men’s H3 Time Trial and Road Race.

Ciara Staunton – Wicklow
Ciara took up the sport of handcycling in earnest in the last 2 years and her ascent has been fantastic to watch. Applying the same drive to achieve and will to win that she has demonstrated so many times whilst representing the Irish Wheelchair Rugby team on many occasions. In addition to playing Wheelchair Rugby at international level, Ciara has also been a driving force behind the development of the sport at local and national level in a variety of committee roles.  Ciara will compete in the Women’s H1-3 Time Trial and H1-4 Road Race

Athletics
Orla Barry – Cork
Orla Barry has been a member of IWA-Sport since she was 12 years of age. Her initial involvement was in the sport of swimming but gradually she found her love for field athletics. Orla has represented IWA-Sport with great distinction at all levels since a very young age. She has competed at, and won significant honours at DSE Games, IWAS World Junior Games, European, World and Paralympic Games level holding many Irish, European and World records along the way. Orla attributes much of her success to her long standing ‘throws’ coach Pat Furlong from Wexford. Pat has been the driving force behind para athletics in Ireland for many years and has coached numerous athletes at all levels. Orla will compete in the F57 Discus.

Niamh McCarthy – Cork
A relative newcomer, Niamh got involved with IWA-Sport in 2013 and has steadily risen through the world rankings since. Niamh secured a bronze medal at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha in 2015 and followed up with a silver medal at this years  IPC Athletics European Championships in Grosseto, Italy. Niamh has also benefitted significantly from the coaching of IWA-Sport stalwart John McCarthy a fellow Corkonian. Niamh will compete in the F41 Discus.

Deirdre Mongan – Galway
Like Niamh McCarthy, Deirdre is a relative newcomer to field athletics, since 2013. That being said it didn’t take Deirdre long to set down some serious statements of intent on the World stage. Deirdre secured a bronze medal in the Shot Put at the IPC World Championships in Doha in 2015, and followed this with a bronze medal at the IPC Athletics European Chamionships in Grosseto, Italy. In her initial years competing Deirdre was coached by Jimmy Byrne who has been involved with IWA for many years. Deirdre has also played a significant role in the development of wheelchair rugby in Ireland. Deirdre represented the national team internationally on many occasions and was a key player behind the foundation of the Ulster Barbarians wheelchair rugby club in Co Down. Deirdre will compete in the F53 Shot Put.

Patrick Monahan – Kildare
Patrick has been making steady progress for the last number of years and his qualification for this years games is a testament to the hard work and dedication he applied to his routine. He has travelled the world competing, learning and bettering himself which has been justly rewarded  by securing qualification for this, his first Paralympic Games. Patrick won the Columbus Ohio Marathon in 2015 where he broke the Irish record by seven minutes and he is also the current back to back winner of the Dublin City Marathon. Patrick has also given back hugely of his time to the sport, helping to develop a track racing programme from his local athletics club – Le Cheile in Maynooth. Patrick will compete in the T53 800m and marathon at his first Paralympic Games in Rio

Swimming
Ellen Keane – Dublin
Ellen has been a member of IWA-Sport since she was very young and will be competing at her third Paralympic Games. Similar to Orla Barry, Ellen has travelled the world on IWA-Sport teams competing at numerous DSE Games and IWAS World Junior Games. At just 13 years old, Ellen Keane was Ireland’s youngest athlete swimming in the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games. At the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, she made three finals and her best finish was 5th in the 100m Butterfly. In 2013, she claimed two bronze medals at the IPC World Championships in Montreal. At the IPC World Championships in Glasgow in 2015, Ellen secured a bronze medal in the 200m Individual Medley final (SM9) where she also set a new lifetime best. Ellen will compete in SB8 100m Breaststroke, S9 100m Butterfly, S9 100m Backstroke and SM9 200m Individual Medley.

James Scully – Meath
James has also represented IWA-Sport and Ireland for many years at numerous international competitions such as the DSE and IWAS World Junior Games. James will be competing in his second Paralympic Games. At the 2013 IPC Swimming World Championships in Montreal James won the bronze medal in the 200m freestyle. And at the 2014 IPC European Championships in Eindhoven he also claimed two bronze medals in the 100m and 200m. James will compete in the S5 50m Freestyle, S5 100m Freestyle and S5 200m Freestyle.

Ailbhe Kelly – Dublin
Competing in her first Paralympic Games, Ailbhe made her international competition debut in 2014 at the IPC European Swimming Championships in Eindhoven.  There she swam impressive lifetime bests in the S8 100m backstroke (twice), and the 400m freestyle. At the IPC World Championships in Glasgow in 2015 Ailbhe continued her steady progress and set a new lifetime best when she finished eighth in the final of the S8 Women’s 100m backstroke. Most recently Ailbhe reached four finals and set five PBs at the 2016 IPC Swimming European Open Championships. Ailbhe will compete in the S8 100m Backstroke, S8 100m Freestyle and S8 400m Freestyle.

Nicole Turner – Co Laois
Nicole is one of the youngest team members and will compete at her first Paralympic Games.  In 2015 Nicole won a silver medal in the Youth Category at the British International in the 50m Butterfly. Later that year at the 2015 IPC Swimming World Championships in Glasgow, she competed in the final of all six of her S6 events setting new lifetime best in each event. This year at the IPC Swimming European Championships Nicole again swam in six finals, winning silver in the 200m Individual Medley and the 100m Breaststroke as well as a bronze in the 50m Butterfly. Nicole will compete in the S6 50m Freestyle, S6 100m Freestyle, SB6 100m Breaststroke, SM6 200m Individual Medley and S6 400m Freestyle.

Behind the scenes
Once again IWA-Sport will be well represented behind the scenes of the Rio Journey. As already mentioned in this piece many IWA-Sport coaches and mentors have worked hard in assisting the athletes prepare not only for these games, but for many years. Pat Furlong, John McCarthy, and Jimmy Byrne will not be in Rio but each of them have coached, guided and mentored their respective athletes for many years and are owed great credit. Michael Bergin from Wexford and Ronan Rooney will both play significant coaching roles at the Games. Mairead Farquharson continued her involvement in Paralympic Sport by Chairing the Swimming Performance Committee.

Paralympics Ireland Performance Director Dave Malone, and long time IWA member, has led the team through this cycle with great success.

We also wish to acknowledge the role IWA members play at Paralympics Ireland Board level; James Gradwell, President, John Fulham, Vice-President, Eimear Breathnach, Vice-President, James McCarthy, Athletes Representative and Anne Ebbs, Honorary Life Member.

Finally it is important to note the contribution of the IWA-Sports Development Officer team. Their contribution in terms of initially identifying many of the athletes involved, guiding and advising them in relation to suitable pathways, and subsequently supporting them in their sporting endeavours has been an important factor in the development of many of the athletes.

Congratulations to everyone involved. Let the Games begin!

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